I was given a great idea by my dad to write a new book series. I love animals and have always loved big cats; the tiger is actually my favorite animal. It was suggested I write a children’s book chronicling the shenanigans two of my favorite indoor cats get into. This book actually honors the memory of my first cat when I was a toddler and the cat my grandparent and when I was little by using their names for the two main characters. The book is fun and silly and meant to make people laugh. I am not someone who tries to make people laugh so I am hoping that people are amused by the silly antics in the new book. I am hoping to have this book into production by the end of this year. This book is near and dear to my heart as much as Let’s Talk! I am not totally sure if I’ll make it a series, but I definitely enjoyed writing it. I hope it can be used to encourage little ones to enjoy animals and fall in love with them as much as I did. I always promote adopt do not shop as well and if it even encourages one family to adopt a cat or dog from a shelter then I have done my job as a writer. I hope everyone will be on the lookout for my new book coming soon called Rascal Cat Brothers.
I have mentioned before in the summary about me in the book that I have been writing since I was seven years old. When I was a kid, I would write short stories and just loved the feel of the pen in my hand. I was one of those that loved to hand write things; the feel of the pen in my hand, the words emerging on the paper as if by magic. I used to dream of writing a book one day, a mystery or thriller chapter book of course. That is the kind of books I loved reading then, still do, so I naturally thought one day if I wrote a book it would be in that genre. I also dreamed of possibly becoming a journalist. Writing these amazing stories for a newspaper that would be read my millions of people and would make an impact. Thinking about it now, I guess I always kind of wanted to write something that made an impact. In my freshman year of high school, I worked on the school newspaper. It was interesting but I already had decided I wanted to teach, or so I thought.
Being a little kid, you think you know what you want to do with your life. I put writing in the back of my mind because it always seemed so hard to break into and hard to make a living off of. In junior high I ended up getting recommended to be in the highest English class and there I stayed until senior year of high school, when I decided I wanted an easy senior year, don’t we all in high school, and went down to the college prep English class. Well I got straight A’s there and never had to study for the vocab tests😉. With all that writing in school from being in high English classes and writing for the school newspaper for a year, writing short stories kind of went on the back burner. I wasn’t really inspired anymore. Then I get to college and realize I do not like teaching, it was not for me(much respect to any teacher, I have taught preschool and pre-kindergarten before). I realized in my fourth year of undergrad I need to change my major. Uh oh. I changed it to something I thought would lead me to social work. Nope never broke into it which I always believed was meant to be and led me to ABA. I realized I needed to go back to school to get my masters. That is how I found ABA, by researching master’s degrees. Any degree is hard work and I worked really hard to graduate with a 3.6 GPA. I went from one dream to another more than once, from wanting to write to teach to wanting to be in social work to ABA. But it is the fact I had a dream to work on, a goal to reach that kept pushing me to keep going. It was working on my master’s degree that led me to my first job in the field of ABA. My second job in the field, I was on my own, the only behavior specialist at the company. That was a big leap. But you know what, I did it and I can honestly say I did it well. I worked hard and I was making my dream come true; have a successful career that I absolutely loved.
Fast forward to working on my PhD in 2018, 9 months into the program, and I have got an itch to write. I was incredibly nervous but for anyone that writes or is creative if you have an itch you have to find an outlet to scratch it or it will bother you until you do. It was not easy to tell my friends and family that I wrote a book and wanted to publish it. Actually, all my current friends I had known for years including best friend, had no clue I liked to write or could write. It was very nerve wracking to be open and tell them I had written this book. I actually did not tell anyone, not even my parents, until I got that first offer letter. It was kind of validation that my stuff was good and worth it. I do not think I would have needed that validation though because all my friends and family were and have been beyond supportive of my book. The point of this story is, no matter your dream, how big or small, if you had it at 7 years old or when your 60 years old, work hard and go for it. Your friends and family, if they care about you and believe in you will support you no matter what. That is one of the biggest lessons I learned is that I need to not let fear stop me from talking to those I’m close to about something I love to do because they will support me no matter what.
Even if your dream is in a field that is difficult to break into, keep working at it. Keep looking for different ways to get into the field whether going back to school, getting a certification, or even starting at the bottom of the field and working your way up. We all have to start somewhere and btw, when I went to work with kids, I took a step back in my career. But guess what, after a year in a half of hard work, I was able to move up to where I am now, and I absolutely love what I do. Working in early intervention is something I tried to break into in my early twenties and look now where I am. After going for a fifth year of undergrad, 2-year break then my master’s degree, 3 in a half year break then working on my PhD, I am finally working in early intervention. The step back was worth the experience and training I got too. Everything we go through is leading us to where we are meant to be. It is by hard work, perseverance and deciding to look outside the box for new ways to break in and gain experience that we are able to actually achieve our dreams. Btw I have my developmental disabilities certification, Six sigma certification and executive management certification. I am immensely proud of how I got to where I am. I am immensely proud of the direction my career is going. I am proud to call myself a published author. I am proud of the chances I have taken in my field and in writing this book. I am excited for the next few books in this series to be written. I am excited to publish my dissertation one day and to contribute to research in my field of ABA. I never thought I would have the grades to be accepted into a PhD program and here I am, 3.8 GPA in the only school I applied to. Anything can happen if you are willing to put the work and effort into it. From working in a daycare part time in my twenties complaining that ill never get into my field to having a successful career in my field that is continuing to progress. If I can do it anyone can, and I am here for anyone that wants help in achieving their dreams. I am here to inspire you, to mentor you and most of all to help you in any way I can to achieve those dreams. Nothing is out of reach and there is no time limit on reaching your goals.
What is Applied behavior analysis or ABA?
The field I work is called applied behavior analysis or ABA for short. I am sure many of you are wondering what exactly that is. Some people say we are a sub-set of psychology and we do have some connection to psychology but have become a separate to field of our own over the years. ABA is a science-based practice that believes in increasing or decreasing behavior based on how socially acceptable it is. It is a scientific approach to understanding why we behave the way we do. You will hear ABA is used the most with those with Autism or a developmental disability and with children. However, there is a whole part of the field that works with adults with developmental disabilities, work in schools with special needs and even work in the judicial system with those in juvenile detention centers or in the jail system. That is just to name a few different populations that ABA is used because honestly ABA can be used everywhere, in everywhere setting. Teachers and parents use techniques that are based in ABA a lot more than they realize they do. Ever use the statement “first this, then that”? Yep that is an ABA technique called the Premack principle or Grandma’s law. What about a token system? I am a huge fan of those and have made many throughout my career when I worked with adults with developmental disabilities. What about in daycares with token systems that allow a child to earn a star for sitting? That is an ABA technique. These are just examples of different way ABA is used in everyday life and we just do not realize it. When I got in the field it was kind of eye opening to realize how often I had used similar techniques in the past and did not know it was all a part of this field. Have you ever used something in your daily life whether with kids or work that may have been an ABA technique? Any kind of ABA technique that sounded interesting to you?
In ABA assessments are completed to understand the needs of the client. Once the needs are met a behavior support plan is written to address those needs. The behavior support plan can be to decrease problem behaviors such as aggression, verbal aggression, self-injurious behavior, property destruction etc. Basically, anything that would affect a client socially in a negative manner can be worked on. We can also work on increasing positive behaviors that are socially acceptable. For me, in working with kids that are under three, I work a lot on increasing eye contact, increasing joint attention, engaging appropriately with toys just to name a few. We figure out the function or reason behind the behavior occurring and use that as the basis for figuring out the proper techniques. For me, the fun part is observing and completing that assessment to understand a function. I love figuring out why a child is doing what they are and figuring out how to change it. I have done many assessments in the past when I worked with adults and written many behaviors plans as well as updated just as many. As fun as assessments can be, the best part, seeing my ideas actually work. Getting to see my client improve is such an incredible feeling and always made me so proud of the client.
If any of this sounds interesting then I would recommend checking out www.behaviorbabe.com for more basic and technical information on the field. There are also some great podcasts like the Daily BA that talks about different important issues in the field. If you are on social media, they also have pages on FB, twitter, and Instagram. You can also search for ABA pages on the different social media sites, you will find a ton trust me. Also, check out Capella University for their ABA degrees as well as the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. I am an alumni of Capella university and cannot say enough good things about their master’s program, so I am going to assume their bachelors’ program is just as amazing. I am currently attending TCSPP and cannot say enough good things about their PhD in ABA program, so I am sure their bachelors and master’s programs just as amazing. Tell them Lisa sent you and I hope one day to be working alongside you in this field, making a positive impact on many different people’s lives.
I have mentioned in other blog posts that each book in the series is going to center on a specific experience, or adventure, the girls go on. For the first book choosing the pool was easy because going to the pool every day is how I grew up. I would literally wake my parents up to get to the pool the exact time it opened, and we would even get dinner there and stay until it closed. Being in the water, whether it is a pool or the beach or a lake or the bay, is something that I still love to this day. Being in the water feels like home; it is comforting and easy. It felt right to make the first book where the girls meet at the pool. I have written the second book already and have written half of the third book. I have ideas for two more books in the series. Can anyone guess what the adventure in the next two books will be? Anyone want to share their adventures from growing up they would want to see in the book? Or an adventure they have gone on with someone in their life that has a disability or Autism?
I talked a bit about the inspiration behind my first children’s book. There is a lot more in my background that I am going to being utilizing in my coming books in the series. When I began my career in 2014, I started actually working with adults living in residential group homes who had dual diagnosis of mental health disorders and Autism. Most times we would say our clients were developmentally disabled but that is just another way of saying they had Autism. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I will say I was trained very well. I have met many amazing people over the years who genuinely cared about the adults we worked with. When I got the final company, I would work for with adults I was asked during my training to plan different events for the clients I had. I think it was about six months into working there that I actually started to. It was this freedom given to me by my supervisors that is part of the inspiration for my books. Each book is going to focus on a different adventure or activity the girls do.
The reason for this is I took my clients at that last residential group home company, and I always invited all the other houses, but usually only the ones I worked with came, anywhere and everywhere I could. I always talk about how I took them to the Crayola factory ( a client’s idea actually and an incredibly special client I will never forget because they always made me laugh), took them to Dorney park.
Now Dorney park I will never forget because one I took a client on a water slide, never thought I would I be in shorts and a tank around clients, but I did it. But the best part, was sitting on a coaster a client in between me and staff, and the staff goes “he’s cursing you out” and low and behold he was! Now do not think it was with bad intent, it was funnier than anything. I did turn to that client and ask if they wanted off more than once, they said no. This client loved roller coasters; their family would take them to theme parks. The client was just acting like a typical twenty something, I mean come on I scream on coasters and I curse a lot at my poor trainer at the gym😉 The client did not want to go home when it was time to leave, lets put it that way. I also took them apple and pumpkin picking, had a paint and sip with sparkling cider, karaoke nights and started a special Olympics bowling team that lasted two seasons. My clients would ask me daily what our next event would be. They would ask me if we had bowling this weekend; I would see my clients once a week. I had great support and great staff to work with me and help me with these events. All it takes is one or two good people to realize that just because they have a disability does not mean they cannot do any and everything another person could that does not have the same disability. By the way I was the behavior specialist for these clients. The majority of those clients had severe behavior issues like verbal aggression or cursing for no reason, aggression like hitting or would simple walk away. And these clients I took out into the community to these super fun events and you know what, I never had one issue. Not one client had an episode in the community. Being a behavior specialist I of course had one very behavioral client who liked to sometimes have episodes usually when we had karaoke night, but like I said, I worked with some amazing people that would handle this client quickly and efficiently. I always talk about my experience and in particular planning events to people. Their reaction is always the same: shock and amazement and I do not mind it. Because it gets the persons mind going and thinking hey if she could do it and be open to adults with disabilities I can too. I kind of fell into this field by finding my master’s program and then finding my first job in this field. But I would not change a thing because this journey has been absolutely amazing. And now I can bring those experiences to others. That is why is part of why I decided to make the first book be more than just a little neurotypical girl forming a friendship with another little one with autism. I wanted there to be an experience, an adventure they go through together. This can show that those with a disability or autism are not the ones limited, it is actually those around them who make the limits. The only things that hold us back are the limits we create for ourselves.
My inspiration for anything I write is always from real life experiences. In particular for Let’sTalk! A story of Autism and Friendship, I had been working as a therapist giving 1:1 applied behavior analysis services to children in their home. Many times, I would hear from parents or see that my clients had difficulty making friends. Sometimes the other little ones did not understand my client. However, in one particular case, my client was playing with another child that was neurotypical, but the other child had difficulty helping my client understand how to play appropriately. The neurotypical child’s parents did not try to help and luckily the particular little one did become upset of frustrated with my client; they stayed and continued to try. It made my happy to know the other child wanted to keep trying but would they still want to after today? Would the child without any help from adults or knowledge of Autism still want to make that effort? It got me thinking that our families really need to work together. What if there was something that encouraged our children to ask questions? Encouraged our families to have those open conversations with their kids? That is what made me want to write this book; for families to have an inspiration to be open to those who may act or look differently than us.
People always say it is our kids that shape this world and it is completely true. Imagine if every family in this country taught their elementary age child that Autism was just a different way to learn. That each family taught their child or children to be open to those who act, talk, or look differently than them. What would our world look like if each family taught that to their child? Would there be as much bullying or stigma around Autism? Nope there would not be. Would there be as much bullying as there is in the world? Nope there would not be. Would our children with a disability enjoy their lives more? Yes, they would.
Just think what a world we would live in if we started now teaching our children to be more open. Another thing about this book is I purposely made the characters not the same race as me. Harper is African American, and Emma is Indian. I tell people I did this because I wanted to do the opposite of what would be expected of a white, Caucasian female such as myself. But that is not the real reason. I simply made the characters different races as another way to inspire our families and children to be open. I plan to have even more diversity in my second book with different ethnicities and introduction of the girl’s dads. Being open to someone different, whether they have a disability or a different skin color, is a choice. Making choices is something that is taught. Why not teach our children to make the choice to be inclusive of everyone; it sure would make this world a happier place. A story of Autism and friendship is the first in a series of books highlighting a friendship between two children who do not let anything become a boundary.